1/20/17

Bible Reading January 21, 22 by Gary Rose


Bible Reading January 21, 22 (World English Bible)


Jan. 21
Genesis 21

Gen 21:1 Yahweh visited Sarah as he had said, and Yahweh did to Sarah as he had spoken.
Gen 21:2 Sarah conceived, and bore Abraham a son in his old age, at the set time of which God had spoken to him.
Gen 21:3 Abraham called his son who was born to him, whom Sarah bore to him, Isaac.
Gen 21:4 Abraham circumcised his son, Isaac, when he was eight days old, as God had commanded him.
Gen 21:5 Abraham was one hundred years old when his son, Isaac, was born to him.
Gen 21:6 Sarah said, "God has made me laugh. Everyone who hears will laugh with me."
Gen 21:7 She said, "Who would have said to Abraham, that Sarah would nurse children? For I have borne him a son in his old age."
Gen 21:8 The child grew, and was weaned. Abraham made a great feast on the day that Isaac was weaned.
Gen 21:9 Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham, mocking.
Gen 21:10 Therefore she said to Abraham, "Cast out this handmaid and her son! For the son of this handmaid will not be heir with my son, Isaac."
Gen 21:11 The thing was very grievous in Abraham's sight on account of his son.
Gen 21:12 God said to Abraham, "Don't let it be grievous in your sight because of the boy, and because of your handmaid. In all that Sarah says to you, listen to her voice. For from Isaac will your seed be called.
Gen 21:13 I will also make a nation of the son of the handmaid, because he is your seed."
Gen 21:14 Abraham rose up early in the morning, and took bread and a bottle of water, and gave it to Hagar, putting it on her shoulder; and gave her the child, and sent her away. She departed, and wandered in the wilderness of Beersheba.
Gen 21:15 The water in the bottle was spent, and she cast the child under one of the shrubs.
Gen 21:16 She went and sat down opposite him, a good way off, about a bow shot away. For she said, "Don't let me see the death of the child." She sat over against him, and lifted up her voice, and wept.
Gen 21:17 God heard the voice of the boy. The angel of God called to Hagar out of the sky, and said to her, "What ails you, Hagar? Don't be afraid. For God has heard the voice of the boy where he is.
Gen 21:18 Get up, lift up the boy, and hold him in your hand. For I will make him a great nation."
Gen 21:19 God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water. She went, filled the bottle with water, and gave the boy drink.
Gen 21:20 God was with the boy, and he grew. He lived in the wilderness, and became, as he grew up, an archer.
Gen 21:21 He lived in the wilderness of Paran. His mother took a wife for him out of the land of Egypt.
Gen 21:22 It happened at that time, that Abimelech and Phicol the captain of his army spoke to Abraham, saying, "God is with you in all that you do.
Gen 21:23 Now, therefore, swear to me here by God that you will not deal falsely with me, nor with my son, nor with my son's son. But according to the kindness that I have done to you, you shall do to me, and to the land in which you have lived as a foreigner."
Gen 21:24 Abraham said, "I will swear."
Gen 21:25 Abraham complained to Abimelech because of a water well, which Abimelech's servants had violently taken away.
Gen 21:26 Abimelech said, "I don't know who has done this thing. Neither did you tell me, neither did I hear of it, until today."
Gen 21:27 Abraham took sheep and cattle, and gave them to Abimelech. Those two made a covenant.
Gen 21:28 Abraham set seven ewe lambs of the flock by themselves.
Gen 21:29 Abimelech said to Abraham, "What do these seven ewe lambs which you have set by themselves mean?"
Gen 21:30 He said, "You shall take these seven ewe lambs from my hand, that it may be a witness to me, that I have dug this well."
Gen 21:31 Therefore he called that place Beersheba, because they both swore there.
Gen 21:32 So they made a covenant at Beersheba. Abimelech rose up with Phicol, the captain of his army, and they returned into the land of the Philistines.
Gen 21:33 Abraham planted a tamarisk tree in Beersheba, and called there on the name of Yahweh, the Everlasting God.
Gen 21:34 Abraham lived as a foreigner in the land of the Philistines many days.




Jan. 22
Genesis 22


Gen 22:1 It happened after these things, that God tested Abraham, and said to him, "Abraham!" He said, "Here I am."
Gen 22:2 He said, "Now take your son, your only son, whom you love, even Isaac, and go into the land of Moriah. Offer him there for a burnt offering on one of the mountains which I will tell you of."
Gen 22:3 Abraham rose early in the morning, and saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son. He split the wood for the burnt offering, and rose up, and went to the place of which God had told him.
Gen 22:4 On the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes, and saw the place far off.
Gen 22:5 Abraham said to his young men, "Stay here with the donkey. The boy and I will go yonder. We will worship, and come back to you."
Gen 22:6 Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son. He took in his hand the fire and the knife. They both went together.
Gen 22:7 Isaac spoke to Abraham his father, and said, "My father?" He said, "Here I am, my son." He said, "Here is the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?"
Gen 22:8 Abraham said, "God will provide himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son." So they both went together.
Gen 22:9 They came to the place which God had told him of. Abraham built the altar there, and laid the wood in order, bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar, on the wood.
Gen 22:10 Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to kill his son.
Gen 22:11 The angel of Yahweh called to him out of the sky, and said, "Abraham, Abraham!" He said, "Here I am."
Gen 22:12 He said, "Don't lay your hand on the boy, neither do anything to him. For now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me."
Gen 22:13 Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and saw that behind him was a ram caught in the thicket by his horns. Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering instead of his son.
Gen 22:14 Abraham called the name of that place Yahweh Will Provide. As it is said to this day, "On Yahweh's mountain, it will be provided."
Gen 22:15 The angel of Yahweh called to Abraham a second time out of the sky,
Gen 22:16 and said, "I have sworn by myself, says Yahweh, because you have done this thing, and have not withheld your son, your only son,
Gen 22:17 that I will bless you greatly, and I will multiply your seed greatly like the stars of the heavens, and like the sand which is on the seashore. Your seed will possess the gate of his enemies.
Gen 22:18 In your seed will all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice."
Gen 22:19 So Abraham returned to his young men, and they rose up and went together to Beersheba. Abraham lived at Beersheba.
Gen 22:20 It happened after these things, that it was told Abraham, saying, "Behold, Milcah, she also has borne children to your brother Nahor:
Gen 22:21 Uz his firstborn, Buz his brother, Kemuel the father of Aram,
Gen 22:22 Chesed, Hazo, Pildash, Jidlaph, and Bethuel."
Gen 22:23 Bethuel became the father of Rebekah. These eight Milcah bore to Nahor, Abraham's brother.
Gen 22:24 His concubine, whose name was Reumah, also bore Tebah, Gaham, Tahash, and Maacah.



Jan. 21, 22
Matthew 11

Mat 11:1 It happened that when Jesus had finished directing his twelve disciples, he departed from there to teach and preach in their cities.
Mat 11:2 Now when John heard in the prison the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples
Mat 11:3 and said to him, "Are you he who comes, or should we look for another?"
Mat 11:4 Jesus answered them, "Go and tell John the things which you hear and see:
Mat 11:5 the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them.
Mat 11:6 Blessed is he who finds no occasion for stumbling in me."
Mat 11:7 As these went their way, Jesus began to say to the multitudes concerning John, "What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind?
Mat 11:8 But what did you go out to see? A man in soft clothing? Behold, those who wear soft clothing are in king's houses.
Mat 11:9 But why did you go out? To see a prophet? Yes, I tell you, and much more than a prophet.
Mat 11:10 For this is he, of whom it is written, 'Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way before you.'
Mat 11:11 Most certainly I tell you, among those who are born of women there has not arisen anyone greater than John the Baptizer; yet he who is least in the Kingdom of Heaven is greater than he.
Mat 11:12 From the days of John the Baptizer until now, the Kingdom of Heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force.
Mat 11:13 For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John.
Mat 11:14 If you are willing to receive it, this is Elijah, who is to come.
Mat 11:15 He who has ears to hear, let him hear.
Mat 11:16 "But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces, who call to their companions
Mat 11:17 and say, 'We played the flute for you, and you didn't dance. We mourned for you, and you didn't lament.'
Mat 11:18 For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, 'He has a demon.'
Mat 11:19 The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, 'Behold, a gluttonous man and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!' But wisdom is justified by her children."
Mat 11:20 Then he began to denounce the cities in which most of his mighty works had been done, because they didn't repent.
Mat 11:21 "Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works had been done in Tyre and Sidon which were done in you, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.
Mat 11:22 But I tell you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you.
Mat 11:23 You, Capernaum, who are exalted to heaven, you will go down to Hades. For if the mighty works had been done in Sodom which were done in you, it would have remained until this day.
Mat 11:24 But I tell you that it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom, on the day of judgment, than for you."
Mat 11:25 At that time, Jesus answered, "I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you hid these things from the wise and understanding, and revealed them to infants.
Mat 11:26 Yes, Father, for so it was well-pleasing in your sight.
Mat 11:27 All things have been delivered to me by my Father. No one knows the Son, except the Father; neither does anyone know the Father, except the Son, and he to whom the Son desires to reveal him.
Mat 11:28 "Come to me, all you who labor and are heavily burdened, and I will give you rest.
Mat 11:29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart; and you will find rest for your souls.
Mat 11:30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."

"THE GOSPEL OF MARK" Weakness In The Seat Of Power (6:14-29) by Mark Copeland

                          "THE GOSPEL OF MARK"

                Weakness In The Seat Of Power (6:14-29)

INTRODUCTION

1. The ministry of Jesus was bound to attract attention...
   a. By virtue of His miracles, even those done by His apostles - Mk6:12-13
   b. Eventually King Herod heard about Him - Mk 6:14

2. In our text, Mark shares with us information about King Herod...
   a. The king's initial reaction to what he heard - Mk 6:14-16
   b. The events that led up to the king's execution of John the Baptist
      - Mk 6:17-29

[In doing so, Mark shows us a sad picture of "Weakness In The Seat Of
Power".  It is a picture borne out by secular history as well.  Let's
first consider...]

I. HEROD AS A KING

   A. HIS POSITION AS TETRARCH...
      1. He is generally known as Herod Antipas
         a. His father:  Herod the Great, an Idumean; ruling when Jesus
            was born - Mt 2:1,3,19
         b. His mother:  Malthace, a Samaritan; the fourth of Herod's
            ten wives
         c. Educated in Rome (together with Archelaus and Philip
      2. Not to be confused with:
         a. Herod Agrippa I (nephew), who killed James - Ac 12:1-2
         b. Herod Agrippa II (grand-nephew), before whom Paul appeared
            - Ac 26:1
      3. When Herod the Great died (4 B.C.), his kingdom was divided
         into four parts - Lk 3:1
         a. Archelaus (full brother) - Judea, Idumea, Samaria (later
            ruled by Pontius Pilate)
         b. Antipas - Galilee, Perea
         c. Philip II (half brother) - Iturea, Trachonitus
         d. Lysanias - Abilene (Syria)
      -- Antipas' position as tetrarch was ratified by Caesar Augustus
         of Rome

   B. HIS ACCOMPLISHMENTS AS TETRARCH...
      1. Governed Galilee and Perea for 42 years (4 B.C. - 39 A.D.)
      2. Built the cities of Sepphoris, Tiberias, and oversaw other
         projects
      3. Imprisoned and executed John the Baptist - Mk 6:14-29
      4. Sought to kill Jesus, who described Herod as "that fox" 
         - Lk 13:31-32
      5. Later mocked Jesus prior to His death, which led to friendship
         with Pilate - Lk 23:7-12
      -- Antipas had the potential and position to be a great man

[But those in positions of power often have personal failings.  Such was
certainly true of Herod Antipas...]

II. HEROD AS A MAN

   A. HE WAS SUPERSTITIOUS...
      1. He initially thought Jesus was John the Baptist - Mk 6:14
      2. Believing John to be raised from the dead - Mk 6:14,16
      -- Such was his attempt to explain the miracles he had heard

   B. HE WAS IMMORAL...
      1. First married to Phasaelis, daughter of King Aretas IV of
         Nabatea
      2. Divorced her to marry Herodias - Mk 6:17
         a. Who was his half-niece, married to his half-brother Philip
         b. They had fallen in love while in Rome together
         c. They agreed to divorce their spouses and marry one another
      3. This was an unlawful marriage (even though Antipas was not a
         Jew) - Mk 6:18
         a. Because it was simple adultery - Lev 20:10; cf. Ro 7:2-3
         b. Also because of the prohibition against marrying a brother's
            wife - Lev 20:21
      4. For which both Herodias and Herod wanted to kill John 
         - Mk 6:19; cf. Mt 14:5
      -- His willingness to divorce and remarry revealed his inner
         character

   C. HE WAS EASILY MANIPULATED...
      1. He feared the multitude, who viewed John as a prophet - cf. Mt14:5
      2. He feared John, liked to listen to him, but did not repent - Mk6:20
      3. He was enticed by his stepdaughter (Salome, possibly 12-14
         years old) - Mk 6:21-23
      4. He was tricked by Herodias into executing John - Mk 6:24-25
      5. He was afraid of losing face in front of his guests - Mk 6:21,26
      6. Herodias' machinations would later lead to his exile
         a. She became jealous of her brother's (Agrippa I) success
         b. An attempt to turn Emperor Caligula against Agrippa
            backfired
         c. Caligula exiled Antipas to Gaul (possibly Lyon, France)
         d. Where Herodias chose to join Antipas
      -- He was concerned with self-image and self-indulgence

CONCLUSION

1. What a sad picture of "Weakness In The Seat Of Power"...
   a. A man in the position of power
   b. A man whose personal failings left him weak and easily manipulated

2. How might we learn from Herod's mistakes today...?
   a. We may be in positions of power
      1) As politicians, businessmen, professional occupations, etc.
      2) As husbands, parents, etc.
   b. Will we be weak or strong?
      1) Like Herod Antipas, easily tempted, easily manipulated?
      2) Or like John the Baptist, strong in one's moral convictions?

John may have lost his head (literally), but he won his soul.  Herod
lost both his head (figuratively) and his soul.  In the end, who would
you rather be?  Remember what Jesus said about John...

   "Assuredly, I say to you, among those born of women there has not
   risen one greater than John the Baptist..." - Mt 11:11
 
Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2016

"THE GOSPEL OF MARK" Principles Of Evangelism (6:7-13) by Mark Copeland

                          "THE GOSPEL OF MARK"

                   Principles Of Evangelism (6:7-13)

INTRODUCTION

1. In Mk 6:7-13, we have Mark's account of "The Limited Commission"...
   a. A charge given to the apostles during the earthly ministry of
      Jesus - cf. Mt 10:1-5
   b. So-called because He limited their work to the house of Israel
      - Mt 10:5-6
   c. In which the Lord gave them instructions for fulfilling their
      mission

2. From the instructions of Jesus, we can glean some "Principles Of
   Evangelism"...
   a. Principles that helped them later carry out "The Great Commission"
      - cf. Mk 16:15
   b. Principles that can help us be more successful in evangelism today

[From our text, I want to point out at least four principles that Jesus
applied in sending out His apostles.  They are principles that I believe
can prove successful today.  The first one is...]

I. THE PRINCIPLE OF SYNERGY

   A. THE APOSTLES WERE TO GO TWO-BY-TWO...
      1. Mark's account is the only one to mention this - Mk 6:7
      2. A practice continued on other occasions...
         a. When Jesus sent out the seventy - Lk 10:1
         b. When the Spirit sent out Paul and Barnabas - Ac 13:2
         c. When Paul and Barnabas went their separate ways - Ac 15:36-40
      3. This illustrates the principle of synergy
         a. Synergy:  "The working together of two things (muscles or
            drugs for example) to produce an effect greater than the sum
            of their individual effects"
         b. Two or more working together can do more than by working
            separately
         1) They encourage one another, and help each other - cf. Ecc
            4:9-10
         2) A plurality of witnesses lend credibility to their story
            - cf. Jn 8:17
      -- Indeed, two are better than one

   B. MAKING APPLICATION TODAY...
      1. The practice of two or more preachers working together should
         be encouraged
         a. Especially in foreign fields or difficult areas
         b. Through the principle of synergy they can be effective in
            one area more quickly, and then move on to the next
         c. This is better than preachers working alone, struggling for
            years by themselves
      2. In one's own personal evangelism...
         a. Seek out a companion in the congregation with similar
            interests
         b. Go together in visiting, teaching home studies, etc.
      -- Whenever possible, find a co-worker!

[Perhaps much of the slow growth in evangelism today is a failure to
appreciate the principle of synergy which was applied by the Lord and
the early church.  Another principle to consider is...]

II. THE PRINCIPLE OF SUPPORT

   A. THE APOSTLES WERE ALLOWED SUPPORT...
      1. They were to depend on others - Mk 6:8-10
      2. Supported by those who willing to provide for them - cf. Lk 10:7-8
      3. This illustrates the principle of supporting workers
         a. Defended by Paul in 1Co 9:4-14
         b. Applied to elders who rule well - 1Ti 5:17-18
         c. Encouraged by John many years later - 3Jn 5-8
      -- This is how the gospel spread throughout the first century
         world

   B. MAKING APPLICATION TODAY...
      1. Preachers may rightly receive support for their labors
         a. It allows them to concentrate their efforts in matters of
            the gospel
         b. This support should come from Christians, and not as a means
            to accumulate wealth
      2. Churches have an important role in such support
         a. Churches can provide support of preachers - 2Co 11:8-9
         b. Much foreign evangelism goes undone today, not because
            preachers are unwilling to go, but because churches have not
            been willing to send and support - cf. Ro 10:15
      3. In one's own efforts...
         a. There is nothing limiting an individual from helping to
            support preachers
         b. While one might help support a local congregation's effort
            to send and support, one can also help through direct
            support
      -- If we are unable to teach, at least we can support those who
         do!

[Turning now to the actual proclamation of the good news, we read of
the...]

III. THE PRINCIPLE OF SELECTION

   A. THE APOSTLES WERE TO BE SELECTIVE...
      1. Preaching to those willing to listen - Mk 6:10
      2. But they were to "shake off the dust under your feet" when
         leaving a city that would not receive them or hear their words
         - Mk 6:11
      3. This illustrates the principle of selection
         a. We're told not to "cast your pearls before swine" - cf. Mt 7:6
         b. People judge themselves unworthy of the gospel by their lack
            of interest
            1) Paul was willing to preach again if people were
               interested- Ac 13:42-44
            2) But when people rejected the gospel, he turned elsewhere
               - Ac 13:45-46
      -- People judge themselves unworthy of eternal life by their
         disinterest

   B. MAKING APPLICATION TODAY...
      1. We are to preach the gospel to every creature - Mk 16:15
         a. But once people display lack of interest, we are not
            obligated to keep trying
         b. Rather than "cast our pearls" before those who don't
            appreciate it, we should move on
      2. Admittedly, there is room for judgment...
         a. As to how long we try to reach someone before going on
         b. Some may not show much interest at first, but do later on
      -- At some point, we need to turn to souls who show more interest!

The next principle is most essential...]

IV. THE PRINCIPLE OF SUBJECT

   A. THE APOSTLES WERE GIVEN A SUBJECT...
      1. In "The Limited Commission", the subject was "repent" - Mk 6:12
      2. It also included the kingdom of heaven - cf. Mt 10:7
      3. In "The Great Commission", it was expanded to include the
         gospel of Christ - Mk 16:15
         a. So Philip the evangelist preached when he went to Samaria
            - Ac 8:12
         b. So Paul preached in synagogues and from house to house 
            - Ac 19:8; 20:18-21,25; 28:23,30-31
      4. This illustrates what our subject should be
         a. It should always be the Word of God, the Gospel - Ro 1:16
         b. As Paul instructed Timothy:  "Preach the word!" - 2Ti 4:1-5
      -- The apostles faithfully proclaimed their subject

   B. MAKING APPLICATION TODAY...
      1. Preachers need to avoid things...
         a. Which entertain, rather than provide sound doctrine
         b. Based more upon the ideas of men, rather than the Word of
            God
         c. Text based, expository preaching can help keep preachers in
            the Word
      2. Churches should consider what message they are presenting to
         the lost...
         a. Is it the gospel of health and wealth, or the gospel of
            Christ?
         b. Are we call for people to become just church members, or
            disciples of Jesus?
      3. In one's own evangelism...
         a. Do not get sidetracked on various issues
         b. While many subjects may have their place, they may be
            "second principles" rather than "first principles"
      -- The lost need to know the gospel of Christ and His kingdom,
         first and foremost!

CONCLUSION

1. The apostles fulfilled their limited commission with great
   confirmation - Mk 6:12-13

2. "The Principles Of Evangelism" gleaned from our Lord's include...
   a. The principle of synergy
   b. The principle of support
   c. The principle of selection
   d. The principle of subject

3. These principles were later employed by the early church...
   a. Which may help explain the rapid spread of the gospel in the first
      century
   b. Which can still be useful to the Lord's church today

Could it be that failure to implement any of these may be reasons why
the church is not growing like it did then...?
 
Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2016

Psalm 137:9—Dashing Babies’ Heads Against a Stone by Kyle Butt, M.Div.


http://apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=13&article=913

Psalm 137:9—Dashing Babies’ Heads Against a Stone

by  Kyle Butt, M.Div.

In my debate with atheist Dan Barker in 2009, Barker accused the God of the Bible of numerous egregious immoralities. One of these accusations centered on Psalm 137:9. Barker stated:
In Psalm 137:9, he [God] told us that we should be happy to take the innocent babies and dash them against the stones. That’s—even if that God did exist, I might not necessarily want to worship such a monster. I might ask him to confess his sins to me. What a guy—what if I were to treat my kids like this?1
The accusation is that Psalm 137:9 is a prescriptive verse that says that whoever dashes the heads of the babies against a stone will be “happy.” According to the skeptical interpretation of this verse, it is to be understood in the same way as the Beatitudes are understood—as a blessing that will be the result of some stated actions. Allegedly, just as Jesus said “Blessed [or “happy” as some translations say] are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5), so Psalm 137:9 is saying that anyone who kills these babies will be blessed with such happiness. There are several problems with the skeptic’s charge against God in this Psalm.
First, we need to look at the context of the verse. By ripping a verse out of its context, a person could force the Bible to say practically anything he wanted to make it say. Instead of misinterpreting passages out of context, it is the job of every honest person to attempt to understand all texts, including and especially those in the Bible, in the context of how the author intended them to be understood. Here is the Psalm in its entirety.
By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept when we remembered Zion. We hung our harps upon the willows in the midst of it. For there those who carried us away captive asked of us a song, and those who plundered us requested mirth, saying, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!” How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land? If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget its skill! If I do not remember you, let my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth—if I do not exalt Jerusalem above my chief joy. Remember, O Lord, against the sons of Edom the day of Jerusalem, who said, “Raze it, raze it, to its very foundation!” O daughter of Babylon, who are to be destroyed, happy the one who repays you as you have served us! Happy the one who takes and dashes your little ones against the rock!
The author of this Psalm is a captive in Babylon. The Babylonians (who caused so much destruction in Israel, killed so many of the Israelites, and held the author and other survivors captive) were demanding that the Israelites perform for them and sing songs about the beauty of Zion. The author was indignant that his captors would make such a demand in light of the horrible things that the Babylonians had done to the Israelites, and the fact that the Babylonians still held them captive. The author then proceeds to explain that the Babylonians were not going to be in their elevated position as victors for long. Instead, these captors who were demanding mirth and songs from the Israelite captives were going to suffer a similar fate to the one that they dealt out. According to the author, there would be those coming who would, in essence, do to the Babylonians what the Babylonians did to Israel, except the Babylonian punishment would be on an even greater scale. The nation that would destroy the Babylonians would repay the Babylonians for the evil they had done and would go so far as to dash the heads of the Babylonian babies against the stones.
We get a glimpse of how this process works in Isaiah 10. Isaiah explains that God would use the nation of Assyria to punish the Israelites. He says, “Woe to Assyria, the rod of My anger and the staff in whose hand is My indignation. I will send him against an ungodly nation, and against the people of My wrath…. Yet he does not mean so, nor does his heart think so, but it is in his heart to destroy, and cut off not a few nations” (10:5-7). Even though God used Assyria as a tool to punish Israel, Assyria did not view its mission in light of God’s justice, and Assyria cruelly and arrogantly abused its power. What, then, did God promise to do to wicked Assyria? The text explains: “Therefore it shall come to pass, when the Lord has performed all His work on Mount Zion and on Jerusalem, that He will say, ‘I will punish the fruit of the arrogant heart of the king of Assyria, and the glory of his haughty looks’” (10:12). Assyria’s wickedness would also be punished.
This same scenario is seen in the Babylonian victory over Israel. In Jeremiah 12, the prophet asked God, “Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why are those happy who deal so treacherously?” (12:1). Jeremiah is perplexed about how God can use a wicked nation such as Babylon to punish the Israelites for wickedness, when it seems that the Babylonians are just as wicked or more sinful than the Israelites. God then explains: “Many rulers have destroyed My vineyard [the nation of Judah—KB]…they have made it desolate…. The plunderers have come on all the desolate heights in the wilderness” (12:10-13). What does the Lord say would happen to those “plunderers” who destroyed Judah? “Thus says the Lord: ‘Against all My evil neighbors who touch the inheritance which I have caused My people Israel to inherit—behold, I will pluck them out of their land and pluck out the house of Judah” (12:14). Thus, God would take vengeance on the nations such as Babylon and Assyria because of their sinful arrogance and cruelty against Israel.
In Jeremiah chapters 50-51 we see a detailed description of what would happen to wicked Babylon. The prophecy begins by stating: “The word that the Lord spoke against Babylon and against the land of the Chaldeans” (50:1). The Israelites would repent of their sins (50:4-5) and beg the Lord to return them to Israel in a renewed covenant with God. God would then punish Babylon, as the prophet stated, “‘For behold, I will raise and cause to come up against Babylon an assembly of great nations from the north country, and they shall array themselves against her; from there she shall be captured. Their arrows shall be like those of an expert warrior; none shall return in vain. And Chaldea shall become plunder; all who plunder her shall be satisfied,’ says the Lord” (50:8-10). Jeremiah 51 continues to describe the destruction of Babylon at the hands of the Medes and Persians. The prophet explains, “The sound of a cry comes from Babylon, and great destruction from the land of the Chaldeans, because the Lord is plundering Babylon and silencing her loud voice…. For the Lord is the God of recompense, He will surely repay” (51:56). And again, “Repay her according to her work; according to all she has done, do to her; for she has been proud against the Lord, against the Holy One of Israel” (50:29).
Looking at Psalm 137 in context, then, we see the psalmist foreshadowing the destruction of Babylon by the Medes and Persians. Since that is the case, we can now understand some things about the statement made in 137:9. The first thing we can see is that it is not a command given by God for anyone today to dash babies’ heads against stones. It certainly is not saying that Christians should dash babies heads against stones to be happy. It can be interpreted as a descriptive statement made about the army that would destroy Babylon and cannot be assumed to be a prescriptive statement that gives a command from God.
Let us consider the difference, then, between a prescriptive statement and a descriptive one. A prescriptive statement prescribes what God says should be done in order to obtain a certain result. For instance, Ephesians 6:2 says, “‘Honor your father and mother,’ which is the first commandment with promise: ‘that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.’” Notice that “honor your father and mother” is a commandment from God of what should be done, and the result would be “that it may be well with you.” A descriptive verse or idea, however, is one that describes a situation—not that God has commanded or ordained—but one that simply relates what is the case if something happens. For instance, in 1 Kings 21, we read about King Ahab attempting to buy a vineyard from Naboth. Naboth refused to sell the king the vineyard, and 1 Kings 21:4 says, “So Ahab went into his house sullen and displeased.” This text is describing what Ahab felt, not what he should have felt or what was the necessary result of the situation. In truth, if he were doing what God wanted, he should have commended Naboth for not selling his family land, and he should have been pleased with Naboth’s obedience to God. Instead, the Bible describes his sullenness, but does not condone it in any way.
When we apply this idea of descriptive talk to Psalm 137:9, we can understand that there is no way the skeptic can prove that dashing babies’ heads against a stone was a commandment that God gave anyone, not even the Medes and Persians. The text is easily understood as one that simply describes what was going to take place. Furthermore, the text cannot be shown to be stating that those who do such things “should” be happy because of these actions. As further evidence of this distinction between descriptive and prescriptive writing, consider the fact that, even though God allowed the Babylonians to destroy Judah (and the Assyrians to destroy northern Israel), those two wicked nations had performed their deeds in a cruel, arrogant way that God did not approve or condone. Their wicked treatment of Israel brought about punishment from God. We can see that God allowed Babylon to destroy Judah, but then punished the nation for the evil way the Babylonians went about it. In the same way, it would be wrong to assume that the Lord condoned the future actions of the Medes and Persians when they would dash the heads of the Babylonian babies against the stones.
Second, if it would be wrong to assume that God condoned the actions of the Medes and Persians, why does the text state, “Happy shall he be who repays you as you have served us! Happy shall he be who takes and dashes your little ones against the rock” (Psalm 137:9)? Another primary reason this text is often misused is due to a misunderstanding of the way the word “happy” is used. It is assumed that happiness is an ultimate good that all people are trying to attain. In this context, however, that is not how the word is used. Instead, it is used in a way that describes a fleeting feeling that has no lasting effects and is of no ultimate spiritual value. A parallel passage that sheds light on this word is found in Jeremiah 12:1, which we noticed earlier. Notice how Jeremiah used the word “happy.” He asked God “Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why are those happy who deal so treacherously?” Jeremiah recognizes that the “happy” people in this passage are wicked, treacherous, and unrighteous. He is wondering how such wicked people can be “happy.” God then explains to the prophet that what he views as happiness is not ultimately a spiritual good, but only a temporary situation. In fact, God explains to Jeremiah that He will punish all those wicked treacherous people, but offer them a chance to repent. If they repent, “then they shall be established in the midst of my people” (12:16), thus offering them an opportunity at legitimate spiritual well-being. If they refused to repent, however, God declared, “I will utterly pluck up and destroy the nation” (12:17).
When we look at the way the Babylonian destruction of Israel is described, we see similar statements to Psalm 137:9. In Jeremiah 50, the prophet tells the Babylonians they would be destroyed, “Because you were glad, because you rejoiced, you destroyers of My heritage” (50:11). They were not glad in a righteous sense, or one that had to do with any ultimate spiritual good, but in a sinful, fleeting sense. Again, their “rejoicing” was not brought about because they followed a commandment from God, but the very opposite. They cruelly and arrogantly destroyed God’s people. This made them “glad” and they “rejoiced” in a way that had nothing to do with commendation from God, or with doing what God has said do in the way He said do it. In such a context, the Bible is not saying that wickedness leads to any type of ultimate good. On the contrary, such statements describe a fleeting feeling of emotional pleasure that can be felt by any person, whether righteous or wicked, but which is not based on the rightness or wrongness of an action.
To illustrate, consider the bank robber who is “happy” that he was able to get away from the policeman without getting caught. Or think of the murderer who was “happy” he successfully buried his victim’s body without being discovered. Or think of the college student who was “happy” it was Friday so he could get drunk with his friends. These scenarios show us that, even today, we often use the word “happy” in the same way that the Bible writers did. The New Testament gives us another clear use of such language in James 4:9. There the writer tells the sinful rich people to “Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to sorrow and your joy to gloom.” The word “joy” is used in other places to describe real, spiritual contentment and happiness (James 1:2). It is used in James 4:9, however, to describe a fleeting feeling that the sinful rich experienced as a result of the misuse of their money. James demanded that they reverse their wrong emotional state to a more accurate one of sorrow and gloom due to their sinful condition.

Conclusion

In Psalm 137:9, it cannot be assumed that the inspired writer was saying that God commanded anyone to dash the heads of children against a stone. The idea that the text merely describes what the Medes and the Persians would do in the future fits the context perfectly. The way the word “happy” is used throughout the Bible allows for the author to be using it in Psalm 137:9 in a way that can describe a fleeting feeling that can be the result of evil actions. This feeling has nothing to do with a blessing or commendation from God. The way the skeptic pulls this passage from its context and misinterprets it says more about the skeptic’s dishonesty when dealing with the biblical text than it does about God’s morality.2

Endnotes


1 Butt, Kyle (2010), A Christian’s Guide to Refuting Modern Atheism: An Expanded Study of the Butt/Barker Debate, Apologetics Press, http://apologeticspress.org/user_file/A%20Christians%20Guide%20to%20Modern%20Atheism-w.pdf.
2 For further discusion on the skeptic’s accusation that God kills innocent children, see pages 203-214 of the above mentioned book. For a discussion of psalms that contain statements about God’s vengeance, see Dave Miller (2013), “The Imprecatory Psalms,” http://www.apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=13&article=4707&topic=82.

Is God Immoral for Killing Innocent Children? by Kyle Butt, M.Div.


http://apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=12&article=260

Is God Immoral for Killing Innocent Children?

by  Kyle Butt, M.Div.

Dan Barker and many of his atheistic colleagues claim that atheism offers the world a superior system of morality when compared to the moral system presented in the Bible. In fact, near the end of Dan’s ten-minute rebuttal speech during our debate, he stated: “We can know that the atheistic way is actually a superior intellectual and moral way of thinking” (Butt and Barker, 2009). One primary reason Dan gave for his belief that the Bible’s morality is flawed is that the Bible states that God has directly killed people, and that God has authorized others to kill as well. In Dan’s discussion about Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac, Dan said that Abraham should not have been willing to obey God’s command. Dan stated: “By the way, Abraham should have said, ‘No, way. I’m better than you [God—KB], I’m not going to kill my son’” (Butt and Barker, 2009).
In his book godless, Barker said: “There is not enough space to mention all of the places in the bible where God committed, commanded or condoned murder” (2008, p. 177). The idea that God is immoral because He has killed humans is standard atheistic fare. In his Letter to a Christian Nation, Sam Harris cited several Bible verses in which God directly or indirectly caused people to die. He then stated: “Anyone who believes that the Bible offers the best guidance we have on questions of morality has some very strange ideas about either guidance or morality” (2006, p. 14). In his landmark atheistic bestseller, The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins wrote the following as the opening paragraph of chapter two:
The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully (2006, p. 31, emp. added).
After listing several Old Testament verses pertaining to the conquest of Canaan, Dawkins referred to God as an “evil monster” (p. 248). Christopher Hitchens wrote that God’s actions and instructions in the Old Testament had caused “the ground” to be “forever soaked with the blood of the innocent” (2007, p. 107).
Is it true that atheism offers a superior morality to that found in the Bible? And is the God of the Bible immoral for advocating or directly causing the deaths of millions of people? The answer to both questions is an emphatic “No.” A close look at the atheistic claims and accusations will manifest the truth of this answer.

ATHEISM CANNOT MAKE “MORAL” JUDGMENTS

The extreme irony of the atheistic argument against God’s morality is that atheism is completely impotent to define the term “moral,” much less use the concept against any other system. On February 12, 1998, William Provine delivered a speech on the campus of the University of Tennessee. In an abstract of that speech, his introductory comments are recorded in the following words: “Naturalistic evolution has clear consequences that Charles Darwin understood perfectly. 1) No gods worth having exist; 2) no life after death exists; 3) no ultimate foundation for ethics exists; 4) no ultimate meaning in life exists; and 5) human free will is nonexistent” (Provine, 1998, emp. added). Provine’s ensuing message centered on his fifth statement regarding human free will. Prior to delving into the “meat” of his message, however, he noted: “The first 4 implications are so obvious to modern naturalistic evolutionists that I will spend little time defending them” (1998).
It is clear then, from Provine’s comments, that he believes naturalistic evolution has no way to produce an “ultimate foundation for ethics.” And it is equally clear that this sentiment was so apparent to “modern naturalistic evolutionists” that Dr. Provine did not feel it even needed to be defended. Oxford professor Richard Dawkins concurred with Provine by saying: “Absolutist moral discrimination is devastatingly undermined by the fact of evolution” (Dawkins, 2006, p. 301).
If atheism is true and humans evolved from non-living, primordial slime, then any sense of moral obligation must simply be a subjective outworking of the physical neurons firing in the brain. Theoretically, atheistic scientists and philosophers admit this truth. Charles Darwin understood this truth perfectly. He wrote: “A man who has no assured and ever present belief in the existence of a personal God or of a future existence with retribution and reward, can have for his rule of life, as far as I can see, only to follow those impulses and instincts which are the strongest or which seem to him the best ones” (1958, p. 94, emp. added). Dan Barker admitted this truth in his debate with Peter Payne, when he stated: “There are no actions in and of themselves that are always absolutely right or wrong. It depends on the context. You cannot name an action that is always absolutely right or wrong. I can think of an exception in any case” (2005).
If there is no moral standard other than human “impulses and instincts,” then any attempt to accuse another person of immoral behavior boils down to nothing more than one person not liking the way another person does things. While the atheist may claim not to like God’s actions, if he admits that there is a legitimate standard of morality that is not based on subjective human whims, then he has forfeited his atheistic position. If actions can accurately be labeled as objectively moral or immoral, then atheism cannot be true. As C.S. Lewis eloquently stated:
My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust...? Of course, I could have given up my idea of justice by saying it was nothing but a private idea of my own. But if I did that, then my argument against God collapsed too—for the argument depended on saying that the world was really unjust, not simply that it did not happen to please my private fancies. Thus in the very act of trying to prove that God did not exist—in other words, that the whole of reality was senseless—I found I was forced to assume that one part of reality—namely my idea of justice—was full of sense. Consequently, atheism turns out to be too simple (Lewis, 1952, pp. 45-46, italics in orig.).
If there truly are cases of justice and injustice, then God must exist. Furthermore, we will show that the God of the Bible never is unjust in His dealings with humanity. On the contrary, the atheistic position finds itself mired in injustice at every turn.

STRESS “INNOCENT”

Generally, the atheistic argument against God’s morality begins with blanket statements about all of God’s actions or commands that caused anyone to die. When the case is pressed, however, the atheistic argument must be immediately qualified by the concepts of justice and deserved punishment. Could it be that some of God’s actions were against people who had committed crimes worthy of death? Sam Harris noted that he believes that the mere adherence to certain beliefs could be a legitimate cause for putting some people to death (2004, pp. 52-53). Almost the entirety of the atheistic community admits that certain actions, such as serial killing, theft, or child abuse, deserve to be punished in some way. They do not all agree with Harris that the death penalty may be appropriate, but they would argue that some type of punishment or preventive incarceration should be applied to the offender.
Once the atheistic community admits that people who break certain laws should be punished, then the only question left to decide is how they should be punished and to what extent. Atheists may quibble with God’s idea of divine punishment, but it has been sufficiently demonstrated that their arguments cannot be reasonably defended (see Lyons and Butt, 2005, 25[2]:9-15; see also Miller, 2002). Knowing that the idea of justice and the concept of legitimate punishment can be used effectively to show that their blanket accusations against God are ill founded, the atheists must include an additional concept: innocence.
The argument is thus transformed from, “God is immoral because He has killed people,” to “God is immoral because He has killed innocent people.” Since human infants are rightly viewed by atheists as the epitome of sinless innocence, the argument is then restated as “God is immoral because He has killed innocent human infants.” Dan Barker summarized this argument well in his debate with Peter Payne. In his remarks concerning God’s commandment in Numbers 31 for Moses to destroy the Midianites, he stated: “Maybe some of those men were guilty of committing war crimes. And maybe some of them were justifiably guilty, Peter, of committing some kind of crimes. But the children? The fetuses?” (2005, emp. added).
It is important to note, then, that a large number of the instances in which God caused or ordered someone’s death in the Bible were examples of divine punishment of adults who were “justifiably guilty” of punishable crimes. For instance, after Moses listed a host of perverse practices that the Israelites were told to avoid, he stated: “Do not defile yourselves with any of these things; for by all these the nations are defiled, which I am casting out before you. For the land is defiled; therefore I visit the punishment of its iniquity upon it, and the land vomits out its inhabitants” (Leviticus 18:24-25, emp. added).
Having said that, it must also be recognized that not all the people God has been responsible for killing have been guilty of such crimes. It is true that the Bible documents several instances in which God caused or personally ordered the death of innocent children: the Flood (Genesis 7), death of the first born in Egypt (Exodus 12:29-30), annihilation of the Midianites (Numbers 31), death of the Amalekites (1 Samuel 15), etc. Using these instances, atheists claim that God cannot be moral because He kills innocent children. Atheists then insist that modern-day atheism would never approve of such, and thus atheism is morally superior to the morality of the biblical God.

ATHEISM HAS NO MORAL QUALMS ABOUT KILLING INNOCENT CHILDREN

A closer look at atheistic morality, however, quickly reveals that atheists do not believe that it is morally wrong to kill all innocent children. According to the atheistic community, abortion is viewed as moral. In his debate with John Rankin, Dan Barker said that abortion is a “blessing” (Barker and Rankin, 2006; see also Barker, 1992, pp. 135, 213). One line of reasoning used by atheists to justify the practice is the idea that humans should not be treated differently than animals, since humans are nothing more than animals themselves. The fact that an embryo is “human” is no reason to give it special status. Dawkins wrote: “An early embryo has the sentience, as well as the semblance, of a tadpole” (Dawkins, 2006, p. 297)
Atheistic writer Sam Harris noted: “If you are concerned about suffering in this universe, killing a fly should present you with greater moral difficulties than killing a human blastocyst [three-day-old human embryo—KB]” (2006, p. 30). He further stated: “If you are worried about human suffering, abortion should rank very low on your list of concerns” (p. 37). Many in the atheistic community argue that unborn humans are not real “persons,” and killing them is not equivalent to killing a person. Sam Harris wrote: “Many of us consider human fetuses in the first trimester to be more or less like rabbits; having imputed to them a range of happiness and suffering that does not grant them full status in our moral community” (2004, p. 177, emp. added). James Rachels stated:
Some unfortunate humans—perhaps because they have suffered brain damage—are not rational agents. What are we to say about them? The natural conclusion, according to the doctrine we are considering, would be that their status is that of mere animals. And perhaps we should go on to conclude that they may be used as non-human animals are used—perhaps as laboratory subjects, or as food (1990, p. 186, emp. added).
Isn’t it ironic that Dan Barker protested to Peter Payne that God could not cause the death of an unborn human “fetus” and still be considered moral, and yet the bulk of the atheistic community adamantly maintains that those fetuses are the moral equivalent of rabbits? How can the atheist accuse God of immorality, while claiming to have a superior morality, when the atheist has no moral problem killing babies?
In response, God’s accusers attempt to draw a distinction between a “fetus” in its mother’s womb, and a child already born. That distinction, however, has been effectively demolished by one of their own. Peter Singer, the man Dan Barker lauds as one of the world’s leading ethicists, admits that an unborn child and one already born are morally equivalent. Does this admission force him to the conclusion that abortion should be stopped? No. On the contrary, he believes we should be able to kill children that are already born. In his chapter titled “Justifying Infanticide,” Singer concluded that human infants are “replaceable.” What does Singer mean by “replaceable”? He points out that if a mother has decided that she will have two children, and the second child is born with hemophilia, then that infant can be disposed of and replaced by another child without violating any moral code of ethics. He explained: “Therefore, if killing the hemophiliac infant has no adverse effect on others, it would, according to the total view, be right to kill him. The total view treats infants as replaceable” (2000, p. 190, emp. added; see also Singer, 1983).
He went on to argue that many in society would be aghast at killing an infant with a disability like hemophilia—but without good reason according to his view. He argued that such is done regularly before birth, when a mother aborts a child in utero after prenatal diagnosis reveals a disorder. He stated:
When death occurs before birth, replaceability does not conflict with generally accepted moral convictions. That a fetus is known to be disabled is widely accepted as a ground for abortion. Yet in discussing abortion, we say that birth does not mark a morally significant dividing line. I cannot see how one could defend the view that fetuses may be “replaced” before birth, but newborn infants may not (2000, p. 191, emp. added).
Singer further proposed that parents should be given a certain amount of time after a child is born to decide whether or not they would like to kill the child. He wrote: “If disabled newborn infants were not regarded as having a right to life until, say, a week or a month after birth it would allow parents, in consultation with their doctors, to choose on the basis of far greater knowledge of the infant’s condition than is possible before birth” (2000, p. 193). One has to wonder why Singer would stop at one week or one month. Why not simply say that it is morally right for parents to kill their infants at one year or five years? Singer concluded his chapter on infanticide with these words: “Nevertheless the main point is clear: killing a disabled infant is not morally equivalent to killing a person. Very often it is not wrong at all” (p. 193, emp. added).
It is clear, then, that atheism does not have moral constraints against killing all innocent babies, but rather only those innocent babies that the atheistic community considers “worthy” to live. How in the world would a person make a moral judgment about which children were “worthy to live?” Singer, Harris, and others contest that a child’s age in utero, mental capability, physical disability, or other criteria should be used to formulate the answer. Dan Barker has given his assessment about how to make such moral decisions. He claimed that “morality is simply acting with the intention to minimize harm.” He further insisted that the way to avoid making mistakes in ethical judgments is to “be as informed as possible about the likely consequences of the actions being considered” (2008, p. 214).
Using Barker’s line of reasoning, if God knows everything, then only He would be in the best possible situation to know all the consequences of killing infants. Could it be that all the infants born to the Amalekites had degenerative genetic diseases, or were infected with an STD that was passed to them from their sexually promiscuous mothers? Could it be that the firstborn children in Egypt, or Abraham’s son Isaac, had some type of brain damage, terminal cancer, hemophilia, etc.? The atheistic community cannot accuse God of immorally killing infants and children, when the atheistic position itself offers criteria upon which it purports to justify morally such killing.
Once again, the atheistic argument must be further qualified. The argument has moved from: “God is immoral because He killed people,” to “God is immoral because He killed innocent babies,” to “God is immoral because He killed innocent babies that we feel would not have met our atheistically based criteria for death.” Ultimately, then, the atheistic position argues that atheists, not God, should be the ones who decide when the death of an innocent child is acceptable.

ATHEISM TAKES “ALL THAT THERE IS” FROM INNOCENT CHILDREN

As with most logically flawed belief systems, atheism’s arguments often double back on themselves and discredit the position. So it is with atheism’s attack on God’s morality. Supposedly, God is immoral for killing innocent children. Yet atheists believe the death of certain innocent children is permissible. Have we then simply arrived at the point where both atheistic and theistic morality are equally moral or immoral? Certainly not.
One primary difference between the atheistic position and the biblical position is what is at stake with the loss of physical life. According to atheism, this physical life is all that any living organism has. Dan Barker stated: “Since this is the only life we atheists have, each decision is crucial and we are accountable for our actions right now” (2008, p. 215, emp. added). He further commented that life “is dear. It is fleeting. It is vibrant and vulnerable. It is heart breaking. It can be lost. It will be lost. But we exist now. We are caring, intelligent animals and can treasure our brief lives” (p. 220). Since Dan and his fellow atheists do not believe in the soul or any type of afterlife, then this brief, physical existence is the sum total of an organism’s existence. If that is the case, when Barker, Harris, Singer, and company advocate killing innocent babies, in their minds, they are taking from those babies all that they have—the entirety of their existence. They have set themselves up as the Sovereign tribunal that has the right to take life from their fellow humans, which they believe to be everything a human has. If any position is immoral, the atheistic position is. The biblical view, however, can be shown to possess no such immorality.

PHYSICAL LIFE IS NOT “ALL THERE IS”

Atheism has trapped itself in the position of stating that the death of innocent children is morally permissible, even if that death results in the loss of everything that child has. Yet the biblical position does not fall into the same moral trap as atheism, because it recognizes the truth that physical life is not the sum total of human existence. Although the Bible repeatedly recognizes life as a privilege that can be revoked by God, the Giver of life, it also manifests the fact that death is not complete loss, and can actually be beneficial to the one who dies. The Bible explains that every person has a soul that will live forever; long after physical life on this Earth is over (Matthew 25:46). The Bible consistently stresses the fact that the immortal soul of each individual is of much more value than that individual’s physical life on this Earth. Jesus Christ said: “For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:26).
Although the skeptic might object, and claim that an answer from the Bible is not acceptable, such an objection falls flat for one primary reason: the skeptic used the Bible to formulate his own argument. Where is it written that God is love? In the Bible, in such passages as 1 John 4:8. Where do we learn that the Lord did, indeed, kill or order the death of babies? Once again, that information comes directly from the Bible. Where, then, should we look for an answer to this alleged moral dilemma? The answer should be: the Bible. If the alleged problem is formulated from biblical testimony, then the Bible should be given the opportunity to explain itself. As long as the skeptic uses the Bible to formulate the problem, we certainly can use the Bible to solve the problem. One primary facet of the biblical solution is that every human has an immortal soul that is of inestimable value.
With the value of the soul in mind, let us examine several verses that prove that physical death is not necessarily evil. In a letter to the Philippians, the apostle Paul wrote from prison to encourage the Christians in the city of Philippi. His letter was filled with hope and encouragement, but it was also tinted with some very pertinent comments about the way Paul and God view death. In Philippians 1:21-23, Paul wrote: “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell. For I am hard pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better” (emp. added).
Paul, a faithful Christian, said that death was a welcome visitor. In fact, Paul said that the end of his physical life on this Earth would be “far better” than its continuation. For Paul, as well as for any faithful Christian, the cessation of physical life is not loss, but gain. Such would apply to innocent children as well, since they are in a safe condition and go to paradise when they die (see Butt, 2003).
Other verses in the Bible show that the loss of physical life is not inherently evil. The prophet Isaiah concisely summarized the situation when he was inspired to write: “The righteous perishes, and no man takes it to heart; merciful men are taken away, while no one considers that the righteous is taken away from evil. He shall enter into peace; they shall rest in their beds, each one walking in his uprightness” (57:1-2, emp. added). Isaiah recognized that people would view the death of the righteous incorrectly. He plainly stated that this incorrect view of death was due to the fact that most people do not think about the fact that when a righteous or innocent person dies, that person is “taken away from evil,” and enters “into peace.”
The psalmist wrote, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints” (Psalm 116:15). Death is not inherently evil. In fact, the Bible indicates that death can be great gain in which a righteous person is taken away from evil and allowed to enter peace and rest. God looks upon the death of His faithful followers as precious. Skeptics who charge God with wickedness because He has ended the physical lives of innocent babies are in error. They refuse to recognize the reality of the immortal soul. Instead of the death of innocent children being an evil thing, it is often a blessing for that child to be taken away from a life of hardship and evil influence at the hands of a sinful society, and ushered into a paradise of peace and rest. In order for a skeptic legitimately to charge God with cruelty, the skeptic must prove that there is no immortal soul, and that physical life is the only reality—neither of which the skeptic can do. Failure to acknowledge the reality of the soul and the spiritual realm will always result in a distorted view of the nature of God. “The righteous perishes...while no one considers that the righteous is taken away from evil.”
We then could ask who is moral: the atheist who has no problem approving of the death of innocent children, while believing that he is taking from them the only life they have? Or an all-knowing God Who takes back the physical life He gave the child, exchanging it for an eternal life of happiness?

WHY NOT KILL ALL THE CHRISTIANS AND BABIES?

Once the atheistic position is forced to concede that it advocates the killing of babies, and that if there is an afterlife, then the biblical description of God’s activities could be moral, then the atheist often shifts his argument in a last ditch effort to save face. If death can be, and sometimes is, better for the innocent child or for the Christian, why not kill all children and execute all Christians as soon as they come up out of the waters of baptism (see Lyons and Butt, n.d.)? The atheist contends that if we say that death can be a better situation for some, then this position implies the morally absurd idea that we should kill every person that death would benefit.
Before dealing with this new argument, it should be noted that we have laid the other to rest. We have shown that it is impossible for atheism to accuse God of immorality in His dealings with innocent children. Since atheism’s attack against God’s character has failed on that front, the maneuver is changed to accuse the follower of God of not carrying his belief about death to its alleged logical conclusion by killing all those who would benefit. One reason that atheists argue thus is because many of them believe that humans have the right to kill those who they deem as “expendable.” Of course, atheism does not base this judgment on the idea that certain babies or other innocent people would benefit, but that society at large would benefit at the expense of those who are killed. Here again, notice that God is allegedly immoral because He “sinned” against innocent children by taking their lives; yet atheism cares nothing for innocent children, but for the society of which they are a part. In truth, atheism implies that once a certain category of people, whether unborn babies, hemophiliacs, or brain-damaged adults, is honestly assessed to be “expendable,” then humans have the moral right, and sometimes obligation, to exterminate them. The atheist berates the Christian for not taking his beliefs far enough, in the atheist’s opinion. If certain people would benefit from death, or in atheism’s case, society would benefit from certain people’s death, then the atheist contends we should be willing to kill everyone who would fall into that category. If we are not so willing, then the atheist demands that our belief involves a moral absurdity. Yet, the fact that death is beneficial to some cannot be used to say we have the right to kill all those that we think it would benefit.

What Humans Do Not Know

One extremely significant reason humans cannot kill all those people that we think might benefit from death is because we do not know all the consequences of such actions. Remember that Dan Barker stated that the way to make moral decisions was to “try to be as informed as possible about the likely consequences of the actions being considered” (2008, p. 214). Could it be that human judgments about who has the right to live or die would be flawed based on limited knowledge of the consequences? Certainly. Suppose the hemophiliac child that Singer said could be killed to make room for another more “fit” child possessed the mind that would have discovered the cure for cancer. Or what if the brain-damaged patient that the atheistic community determined could be terminated was going to make a remarkable recovery if he had been allowed to live? Once again, the biblical theist could simply argue that God is the only one in the position to authorize death based on the fact that only God knows all the consequences of such actions. The atheistic community might attempt to protest that God does not know everything. But atheism is completely helpless to argue against the idea that if God knows everything, then only He is in the position to make the truly moral decision. Using Barker’s reasoning, when God’s actions do not agree with those advocated by the atheistic community, God can simply answer them by saying, “What you don’t know is....”
It is ironic that, in a discussion of morality, Barker offered several rhetorical questions about who is in the best position to make moral decisions. He stated: “Why should the mind of a deity—an outsider—be better able to judge human actions than the minds of humans themselves...? Which mind is in a better position to make judgments about human actions and feelings? Which mind has more credibility? Which has more experience in the real world? Which mind has more of a right?” (1992, p. 211). Barker intended his rhetorical questions to elicit the answer that humans are in a better position to make their own moral decisions; but his rhetoric fails completely. If God is all-knowing, and if God has been alive to see the entirety of human history play out, and if only God can know all of the future consequences of an action, then the obvious answer to all of Barker’s questions is: God’s mind.
Additionally, there is no possible way that humans can know all the good things that might be done by the Christians and children that live, even though death would be better for them personally. The apostle Paul alluded to this fact when he said that it was better for him to die and be with the Lord, but it was more needful to the other Christians for him to remain alive and help them (Philippians 1:22-25). Books could not contain the countless benevolent efforts, hospitals, orphanages, soup kitchens, humanitarian efforts, and educational ventures that have been undertaken by Christians. It is important to understand that a Christian example is one of the most valuable tools that God uses to bring others to Him. Jesus noted that when Christians are following His teachings, others see their good works and glorify God (Matthew 5:13-16). Furthermore, the lives of children offer the world examples of purity and innocence worthy of emulation (Matthew 18:1-5). While it is true that death can be an advantageous situation for Christians and children, it is also true that their lives provide a leavening effect on all of human society.

Ownership and Authorization

The mere fact that only God knows all consequences is sufficient to establish that He is the sole authority in matters of human life and death. Yet, His omniscience is not the only attribute that puts Him in the final position of authority. The fact that all physical life originates with God gives Him the prerogative to decide when and how that physical life should be maintained. In speaking of human death, the writer of Ecclesiastes stated: “Then the dust will return to the earth as it was, and the spirit will return to God who gave it” (12:7, emp. added). The apostle Paul boldly declared to the pagan Athenians that in God “we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). If God gives life to all humans, then only He has the right to say when that life has accomplished its purpose, or under what circumstances life may be legitimately terminated.
In addition to the fact that God gives life and, thus, has the authority to take it, He also has the power to give it back if He chooses. Throughout the Bible we read of instances in which God chose to give life back to those who were dead, the most thoroughly documented example of that being the resurrection of Jesus Christ (Butt, 2002, 22[2]:9-15). In fact, Abraham alluded to this fact during his preparations to sacrifice Isaac. After traveling close to the place appointed for the sacrifice, Abraham left his servants some distance from the mountain, and said to them: “Stay here with the donkey; the lad and I will go yonder and worship, and we will come back to you” (Genesis 22:5). Notice that Abraham used the plural pronoun “we,” indicating that both he and Isaac would return. The New Testament gives additional insight into Abraham’s thinking. Hebrews 11:17-19 states: “By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten...accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead...” (emp. added). Since God gives physical life to all, and since He can raise people from the dead, then any accusation of injustice that fails to take these facts into account cannot be legitimate.

CONCLUSION

It is evident that atheism has no grounds upon which to attack God’s character. Atheists contend that a loving God should not kill innocent babies. But those same atheists say that killing innocent babies could be a blessing under “the right” circumstances. Atheists contend that God is immoral for taking the lives of innocent children. Yet the atheist believes that it is permissible to take the lives of innocent children, when doing so, according to their belief, means that those children are being robbed of the sum total of their existence. Yet, according to the biblical perspective, those children are being spared a life of pain and misery, and ushered into a life of eternal happiness. Atheism contends that its adherents are in a position to determine which children should live and die, and yet the knowledge of the consequences of such decisions goes far beyond their human capability. Only an omniscient God could know all the consequences involved. The atheist contends that human life can be taken by other humans based solely on reasoning about benefits to society and other relativistic ideas. The biblical position shows that God is the Giver of life, and only He has the authority to decide when that life has accomplished its purpose. In reality, the atheistic view proves to be the truly immoral position.

REFERENCES

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